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Norway to Downgrade Diplomatic Relations with Iran

July 3, 1995

OSLO, Norway (AP) _ Norway is permanently withdrawing its ambassador from Iran to protest its death order against novelist Salman Rushdie.

``We are reacting to the Iranian authorities’ continued refusal to distance themselves from the fatwa,″ Foreign Minister Bjorn Tore Godal said Monday. He said the embassy will be led by a charge d’affaires, the next rank below ambassador.

Iran’s spiritual leader, the Ayatollah Khomeini, issued the religious edict in 1989 ordering the death of Rushdie and anyone connected with his book, ``The Satanic Verses.″

Last autumn, Iran called home its ambassador to Oslo to protest what it called Norway’s hostile attitude. In January, Norway withdrew Ambassador Birger Bye for an indefinite period.

Bye will return to Iran, but only to inform the government of Norway’s decision and announce his permanent withdrawal, a government statement said.

Rushdie, an Indian-born Briton, has lived in hiding since his novel was declared blasphemous.

Oslo has urged Iran to cancel the order since Rushdie’s Norwegian-language publisher, William Nygaard, was shot and severely wounded in Oslo in 1993. Nygaard said he believes the shooting was related to the fatwa.

Norway says it will vote against any Iranian application for loans from the World Bank, to refuse to use government funds to benefit the Iranian economy and to urge international organizations to pressure Iran.

The recent dispute flared in January when Tehran withdrew a June 1994 letter in which its Oslo embassy said the death order did not apply to Norwegians living in Norway.

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